Government tightens asylum rules

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The number of people seeking asylum in Norway has soared, so the left-center coalition government is trying to further tighten the rules to discourage more from trying to enter the country as refugees.

Around 8,100 persons have applied for asylum in Norway so far this year. That’s up nearly 50 percent from the 5,600 who sought asylum during the first six months of last year.

The government minister in charge of labour and immigration, Dag Terje Andersen of the Labour Party, unveiled plans to slow the flow of would-be refugees by toughening asylum requirements especially for minors and asylum seekers with children.

“We want to reduce the number of underage asylum seekers who are sent to Norway,” Andersen said. “Many come with false identities and we don’t want that to pay off.”

He said those lacking documented identity papers will no longer be granted temporary work permission. The government will also set up a national identity and documentation center to help verify identities, while asylum seekers will have their age verified by teeth and other physical examinations.

Andersen said the government also will allow families to be sent back to Greece, a common port of entry into Europe for many refugees. He vowed faster interview and age verification processes for young asylum seekers.

“We’re afraid that as many as 18,000 or more will seek asylum here this year,” Andersen said. “That poses new challenges and that’s why we’re introducing new measures.”

Asylum advocates and politicians from the Socialist Left (SV) party, which is part of the government coalition, immediately criticized the harsher measures. “What provokes me the most is that these measures are aimed at children and youngsters,” said Rolf Reikvam of SV. “I think it’s shameful that my party will be associated with such policies.”